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Welcome home to art gallery tour

Robert Taylor and Janet Morningstar show off their garage prior to this year
Robert Taylor and Janet Morningstar show off their garage prior to this year's House Tour fundraiser for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Behind the couple is a painting of their home by artist Robert Amos who will also act as artist in residence for the day.
— image credit: Laura Lavin/News staff

Robert Taylor loves his home, his community and his art collection. Next weekend the three will converge like never before, when the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s House Tour 2014 stops by his St. Patrick Street residence.

Taylor and his partner Janis Morningside are among three Oak Bay homeowners on the tour Sept. 7, the largest annual fundraiser for gallery, aimed at raising $30,000 for the organization. The couple, who moved to the home two years ago from West Vancouver, had been collecting West Coast art for some time before attending last year’s tour. When organizers approached them to participate in the tour following the event, the decision to open their doors to curious art lovers was an easy one to make.

“Hundreds of people join the art tour and they’re all interesting people,” said Taylor. “The reason why we felt comfortable offering our home is that we saw how well managed the tour was, how professionally the volunteers conducted the tour, but also, the sort of people who are prepared to pay money and go on this sort of tour are sensitive. They’re the sort of guests you’d want in your house.”

Taylor is mildly self-conscious that his willingness to share his home and art may come off a little vain, but his enthusiasm for his 1922 Arts and Crafts, Tudor revival home, and garden – itself designed by local artist Brian Travers-Smith and once featured in Better Homes and Gardens and the Oak Bay Garden Tour – far outweighed any trepidation. Travers-Smith’s work adorns their walls, as well as that of Robert Amos, who will be on site painting during the event.

Each house on this year’s tour hosts a local artist, an element organizers were pleased to include as a means of strengthening the tour’s connection to art. Deborah Tilby, Desiree Bond, Bev Petow, Brian Simons and Richard Hunt also join the tour.

“Part of the emphasis this year, is to try and make it very obvious that this is an art gallery event, so all of the houses have a lot of art in them,” said tour co-organizer Scott Vannan, noting the Central Avenue house where Hunt will carve is furnished with works from the gallery’s art rental program.

Each house, Vannan said, reflects the personal stories of their owners.

The other Oak Bay stop, overlooking the Chinese Cemetery and hosting Simons, is a home full of colourful, vibrant paintings from the owner’s lifelong collection. The tour includes a home in Esquimalt. The art that fills their home is their own, save for on Sept. 7 when unique sculptural pieces, metal dresses crafted by Petow, who will work from the home, add to the visual appeal. Tilby and Bond set up at Donnington Place, Eric Charman’s large estate, built in the style of an English farmhouse. Charman’s home showcases a more formal form of collecting than the others.

“I don’t want a tour where people go and have a good time and leave not really knowing what it was about,” Vannan said.

Back on St. Patrick Street, art remains the focus of the 61-year-old fundraiser, but one enthusiastic Oak Bay resident certainly won’t shy away from a broader discussion about his home, now being designated heritage. For Taylor, the event seems to encompass a range of elements beneath this year’s tour theme, The Art of Living Beautifully: art, design, history and community.

“(The home) is a good example of the building boom of the early ‘20s after the war, the increase of professional people living in Oak Bay and commuting to downtown Victoria via streetcar. It’s a small piece of Oak Bay history in itself,” Taylor said.

“What we especially enjoy about living in Oak Bay,” he added, “is the sense of community, and of course, that only exists if people are prepared to contribute.”

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s House Tour 2014 fundraiser runs from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sept. 7. Tickets are $35, on sale now through until Sept. 7, online or in person at the gallery (1040 Moss St.), at all of the Victoria GardenWorks locations, and all Brown’s the Florist locations. Each ticket to the event includes a tour of three homes in Oak Bay, and one each in Esquimalt and the Saanich Peninsula, as well as a coupon for two free gallery admissions.

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